No exploration of the Great White North is complete without embarking on a Western Canada road trip. Home to some of the finest scenery in Canada, the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia are built for serious Canadian road-tripping.
Whether it’s roaming along the iconic Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff & Lake Louise, enjoying the scenic drive along the Trans-Canada Highway through Yoho National Park and Glacier National Park, or heading north to Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway, start planning the ultimate Western Canadian road trip itinerary with this complete guide…
Where to go in Western Canada in two weeks
Let’s not deny it: Trying to cram in the ultimate road trip in Western Canada in 2 weeks is going to be tough. Maybe even nearly impossible.
The two major Western Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia are each worthy of more than two weeks on their own. You’re not going to see it all.
Think of this road-trip itinerary, instead, as a primer. It serves as an introduction to some of the best places to visit in Canada, and will, no doubt, prime your appetite to discover more at a more languished pace on future road trips.
There’s no better city to introduce Western Canada than the region’s urban gateway of Calgary. Although most famous for hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics, Calgary is a fantastic Canadian travel destination in its own right and is becoming one of the country’s coolest cities to live in.
While our prescription for spending two days in Calgary might not suit travellers champing at the bit for outdoor adventures, it’ll allow time to acclimate to the new time zone and rest up before the inevitable long travel days that’ll follow soon enough.
What to do in Calgary
Even if you decide to spend just one day in Calgary, you’ll come to appreciate and enjoy this friendly Canadian city. While you won’t be able to see everything on a quick road trip, the top tourist attractions in Calgary include:
- Calgary Stampede: If you’re visiting Calgary in July, make sure you time your visit with the Stampede. Dubbed the “greatest outdoor show on earth,” the Calgary Stampede sets off 10 days of summer fun with everything from rodeos & chuckwagon races to live country music & Western-inspired breakfasts.
- Stephen Avenue: Running through the heart of downtown Calgary, Stephen Avenue is one of the best places to start exploring the city centre. The pedestrianized section between 4 Street SW and 1 Street SE is chock-loaded with restaurants, boutique shops, and shopping malls along with impressive heritage buildings and cool street art.
- Calgary Tower: The most distinguishable feature in Calgary’s skyline, Calgary Tower is the best place in town to check out the city from above. The tower’s observation deck sits at the 191-metre level. From it, you’ll be able to see the entire city centre and even as far as the Rocky Mountains if the weather’s right.
- Heritage Park Historical Village: Located south of the city, the open-air Heritage Park Historical Village is one of Calgary’s top family-friendly attractions. Through over 180 exhibits and costumed performances, the village recreates life in Western Canada from the time of confederation to the 1930s. Kids will love it!
Where to stay in Calgary
For most road-trippers, the best areas to stay in Calgary include Downtown and the Beltline. In these central neighbourhoods, you’ll be close to the top attractions as well as the major highways that’ll take you through to your next stop.
- Holiday Inn Express and Suites Calgary: If you want to keep your budget in check, book yourself into one of these self-catering downtown suites.
- Hyatt Regency Calgary: Among Calgary’s top mid-range hotels, the Hyatt Regency features spacious modern rooms and excellent amenities including an on-site restaurant and fitness centre.
- Hotel Le Germain: The best luxury hotel in Downtown Calgary, the Hotel Le Germain is a charming boutique hotel with luxurious rooms and excellent amenities including a soothing on-site spa, restaurants, and laid-back lounge.
While many may balk at the decision to include one day in Edmonton in this road trip itinerary, the reasoning is simple.
Located just 3 hours by car from Calgary, Edmonton is the perfect place to break up the long journey from Calgary to Jasper National Park, one of Canada’s must-see destinations and an essential stop on any Western Canada itinerary, without backtracking.
What to do in Edmonton
Perhaps Edmonton’s a little short on fans. (Other than of the hockey variety; there are plenty of those around there!) But that doesn’t mean Edmonton isn’t worth visiting!
As the long-standing capital of Alberta, Edmonton is hardly short on great sightseeing opportunities. There’s plenty of culture & history to tease out in Edmonton even on a time-crunch. The top tourist attractions in Edmonton include:
- Art Gallery of Alberta: Even if you’re not an art lover, you’ll appreciate the Art Gallery of Alberta. Aside from the over 6,000-strong collection of local, Canadian, and international art, the gallery’s new exterior design, shimmering with zinc and glass, is a stand-out landmark in downtown Edmonton.
- West Edmonton Mall: Travelling to Edmonton with kids? There’s no way you’ll be able to weasel out of a visit to the West Edmonton Mall. The largest mall in North America is more than just a shopping centre; it’s a destination unto its own. Step inside for family fun in the mall’s indoor amusement park, waterpark, and the Santa Maria, a full-scale pirate ship fashioned after Christopher Columbus’s maiden voyage vessel.
- Old Strathcona: For a bite to eat with a little heritage aftertaste, jet down to Old Strathcona. Located just south of the river from downtown, Strathcona is one of Edmonton’s oldest boroughs. Centred along Whyte Avenue, it’s full of cool heritage buildings hiding restaurants, bars, clubs, boutique shops, and performing arts venues.
- North Saskatchewan River Valley: Edmonton’s reputation as a green city stems from its massive river valley. Cuddling the snaking banks of the North Saskatchewan River, this beautiful urban parkland is among the biggest and best in North America. If you find yourself with an extra couple hours to kill on a bright sunny day, there’s no better place to while it away than here.
Where to stay in Edmonton
For most visitors on a time-crunch, the best areas to stay in Edmonton for sightseeing include Downtown and Strathcona. West Edmonton is another good option if you’re travelling in a larger group thanks to the cluster of family-friendly hotels just north of the mall.
- Varscona Hotel on Whyte: For a stay in historic Strathcona, this popular Whyte Avenue hotel offers excellent value. The neighbourhood’s trendy restaurant & bar scene is just minutes away.
- Four Points by Sheraton Edmonton West: For families, this brand-new 3-hotel in West Edmonton promises a comfortable stay in the city thanks to its indoor pool, hot tub, fitness centre, and restaurant.
- The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald: The top luxury hotel in Edmonton, this legendary 5-star features elegant rooms and luxurious amenities including a fine-dining restaurant and spa.
Jasper National Park
Embarking Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy 16), the true Canadian road-trippin’ fun begins. Jasper National Park is the first in the series of epic parks comprising the UNESCO World Heritage listed Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.
The 4-hour drive between Edmonton and Jasper transports you from prairies towards the heart of the Canadian Rockies. In a few short hours, the plains will slowly begin to roll upwards before transitioning into the dramatic mountain landscapes that Alberta is most famous for.
Our advice is to spend at least 3 days in Jasper National Park. Since much of the first day will be spent getting there, it’ll leave you two days in Jasper to seek out the perfect outdoor activities to fill out your trip.
What to do in Jasper
Trying to experience the best of Jasper National Park can be tough on a time-crunch. Like other areas in the Canadian Rockies and many of the other top places to visit Alberta, the weather in Jasper is highly seasonal and often unpredictable.
Make sure to read weather reports and heed local advice, including grizzly bear warnings, before embarking into wilderness on your search for some of these top tourist attractions in Jasper:
- Maligne Lake: One of Jasper National Park’s must-see moments, Maligne Lake sets a classic scene that’s been depicted in photographs and paintings all over the world. To catch the lake at its most iconic, seek out a panorama of the lake alongside the towering pine trees of Spirit Island to a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
- Jasper SkyTram: Shooting up 2,263 metres on Whistlers Mountain, the Jasper SkyTram offers some of Jasper’s best sightseeing opportunities. If you’re feeling extra adventurous (and the weather is co-operating), the trail up to the peak of Whistlers Mountain is one of the best hikes in Jasper National Park.
- Columbia Icefield: One of the largest non-polar icefields in the world, the majestic Columbia Icefield is an essential stop on any road trip. You can visit the Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier, and Columbia Icefield Skywalk en route to Banff on a road trip along the Icefields Parkway or with a guided Ice Explorer tour.
- Athabasca Falls: Watch the mighty Athabasca River crash 23 metres below with a visit to Athabasca Falls. The waterfalls are located on the Icefields Parkway, about 30 minutes from Jasper Town.
- Miette Hot Springs: If you’re looking to unwind on your last day in Jasper, there’s hardly a better place to do it than Miette Hot Springs, the hottest natural hot springs in the Rockies. While in the area, you might also want to test your quads with the popular nearby Sulphur Skyline Trail.
Where to stay in Jasper
The bulk of the best hotels in Jasper lie in & around Jasper Town, the park’s main tourist hub. Staying within the town, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops with everything you need for your vacation.
- Bear Hill Lodge: Situated only 10 minutes from the centre of town, this lovely rustic lodge lodge has a palpable country vibe that’s perfect for adding a little wilderness to your trip.
- Pyramid Lake Resort: If you love the calming effects of staying near water, be sure to book a room at this top-notch lakeside resort. Located on Pyramid Lake, the resort offers plenty of excellent amenities & activities including a private beach, hot tub, canoeing, and kayaking.
- Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge: The top luxury hotel in Jasper, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge pulls out all the stops to ensure your national park stay is nothing short of perfect. The resort is perched on the shore of beautiful Beauvert Lake and offers guests everything from a spa to an award-winning golf-course.
Banff National Park
Heading south from Jasper to Banff along the Icefields Parkway is one of Canada’s best road trips. And whether you want to take it slow or make it snappy, this stretch might well become one of the highlights of your trip.
Along the way, you’ll get to see towering mountains crawling with glaciers and hiding shimmering glacial lakes among deep pine forests. A few great places to visit along the way include Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and the majestic Columbia Icefield on the edge of the two national parks.
Aim to spend at least 3 days in Banff National Park. There’s a ton to see here, and although you definitely won’t get to all of it in just a few days, it’s certainly enough time to be dazzled by it thoroughly!
What to do in Banff
Roaming about Banff almost feels like it’s cheating; it’s like packing most of Canada’s most famous charms all into a single tight package. The Banff area teems with incredible hiking trails meandering among richly forested valleys, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and towering summits.
As you wander around leisurely, set your radar on these top tourist attractions in Banff:
- Moraine Lake: Located just south of Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is so legendary it’s squeezed its way onto Canadian currency. If you want to see Moraine Lake at its most dazzling, visit in summer. The lake remains frozen for over half the year, finally melting in June and exposing its lustrous colours.
- Lake Louise: A destination in its own right, Lake Louise is one of Banff’s most famous places. This iconic glacial lake is incredible all year round, but at its absolute best in summer when its crystalline waters shimmer in a stunning aquamarine blue to a Rocky Mountain backdrop. There’s a ton of great hiking trails in the Lake Louise area to explore all of its nooks and crannies including Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive. If you’re visiting in winter, strap on a pair of skis and hit the slopes at Lake Louise Ski Resort. It’s the biggest of the three ski resorts in Banff and one of the best ski resorts in Canada!
- Sulphur Mountain: If you only had one day in Banff, Sulphur Mountain would be a great place to start exploring. The trail to the summit is one of the most accessible hiking trails in Banff, albeit not one of the easiest. If you want to save your energy, you can, instead, opt to zip up to the top with the Banff Gondola.
- Johnston Canyon: For one of the easier more family-friendly hikes in Banff, head over to Johnston Canyon and take the short 1.1-kilometre trail to Lower Falls. To get even better views of the canyon area, trek a little further to the Upper Falls.
Where to stay in Banff
For most travellers, the best place to stay is within the town of Banff itself. There’s a great selection of accommodations here. Keep in mind that the top hotels in Banff tend to book up quickly in the peak summer months and during ski season.
Choosing to stay at a hotel in Lake Louise is another option if you’d like to focus more on destinations in the northern part of the park like Peyto Lake, Bow Lake or Mount Saint Piran.
- Mount Royal Hotel: One of the top value hotels in the area, this modern hotel offers beautiful design along with great amenities like a hot tub and sauna.
- Banff Boutique Inn: Sporting a fantastic location, this boutique B&B blends alpine and contemporary motifs for a comforting stay.
- Moose Hotel & Suites: Situated in the centre of Banff, these suites offer alpine-inspired rooms along with excellent amenities including a full-service spa, outdoor pool, indoor pool, fitness centre, and two rooftop hot tubs with mountain views.
- Fairmont Banff Springs: Built in 1888, this historic luxury hotel, like its sister property in Lake Louise, barely needs any introduction. If you can fit it into your travel budget, it’s one of most legendary places to stay in Canada!
Once you’ve dug your heels into Banff, hit the Trans-Canada Highway and cross over into the province of British Columbia.
Along the way, you’ll pass by two other epic Canada national parks—Yoho National Park and Glacier National Park of Canada. If you’ve got a little extra time on your hands and want an extra dash of Canadian outdoor adventure at its finest, spending a night or two in the town of Golden, B.C., en route isn’t a bad idea.
As a departure from the typical Banff to Vancouver route along the Trans-Canada, veer south at Sicamous onto Highway 97A & Highway 97 towards Kelowna.
The city of Kelowna is the unofficial capital of the Okanagan Valley, a region known for its orchards, vineyards, and, naturally, its wineries and cideries.
The scenic drive from Banff to Kelowna clocks in at under six hours leaving us to prescribe spending at least two nights in Kelowna. It’ll give you an evening to rest and one day in Kelowna to explore its wineries, museums, or lakefront walking trails.
What to do in Kelowna
Ever-expanding Kelowna is the third-largest city in B.C., trailing only Vancouver and the capital city of Victoria. This means that you’ll find plenty to do here all throughout the year.
Of course, the highlight of any road trip to Kelowna is to dabble in its wine culture. Kelowna is home to some of the best wineries in the Okanagan Valley, and some of the most well-known in all of Canada. A few of the top tourist attractions in Kelowna include:
- Mission Hill Family Estate Winery: If you’ve only got time for one winery tour in Kelowna, make it this one. This West Kelowna winery is not just famous for its award-winning wine, but its dramatic views over Okanagan Lake.
- Kasugai Gardens: You don’t need to visit Japan to see Japanese landscape design at its finest! Kasugai Gardens is one of the most unique parks in Kelowna and a wonderful place to chill out in the city centre. The park features a wonderful interplay of stone lanterns, waterfalls, pathways, pine trees, and a pond filled with koi.
- Kelowna Art Gallery: Kelowna is home to a thriving art scene and one of the best places to see it in action is at the Kelowna Art Gallery. The gallery hosts four different exhibitions with its permanent collection focusing on works by local artists from the Okanagan as well as from B.C. and the rest of Canada.
- Mission Creek Regional Park: For outdoor adventure on the doorstep of the city, squish this regional park into your Kelowna itinerary. There’s 92 hectares of parkland to explore here as you walk along some of the best hiking trails in Kelowna.
Where to stay in Kelowna
For most travellers visiting Kelowna, the city centre is a good place to start looking for accommodations. It’s home to most of the best hotels in Kelowna and is conveniently located to take full advantage of all of the sightseeing opportunities.
- Royal Anne Hotel: Offering superb value in downtown Kelowna, this hotel features comfortable rooms along with excellent extra amenities including a gym and two saunas.
- Coast Capri Hotel: Located just blocks from the lakefront, this hotel has a resort-like feel to it thanks to its menu of amenities including two on-site restaurants, an outdoor pool, hot tub, and spa.
- Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort: Nestled on the shores of Okanagan Lake, this resort is a great choice for couples and families alike. There’s a whole range of amenities here from hot tubs & fitness centre to an on-site wine bar featuring all of Okanagan’s top vintners.
- The Royal Kelowna:
From Kelowna, it’s a scenic 4-hour drive to the last stop on your ultimate Western Canada road trip, Vancouver. The third-biggest city in Canada and, arguably, the most well-rounded urban destination in the country, Vancouver will no doubt quickly become a favourite.
Hemmed into a Pacific Ocean inlet by the North Shore Mountains, Vancouver occupies a geographical location that most world cities only dream of. And with wilderness knocking on its doorstep, it’s a hardly a surprise that Vancouverites are keen on outdoor adventures, and that the city’s most compelling charms for visitors lie outside rather than in.
We’d recommend spending at least 3 days in Vancouver on this road trip. With all of the city’s charms and all of great day trips from Vancouver, it’s hardly enough time to fit it all in. But it’s a great primer that will leave you wanting to return to spend more time in this quintessential Canadian West Coast city.
What to do in Vancouver
From its coastal beaches to primordial forests, Vancouver’s like no other place in Canada. While there’s a ton of see & do in the city itself, most visitors love Vancouver for its outdoor adventures.
With just a couple free days, you’ll be hard-pressed to fit in everything that’s worth seeing. Get a good start with some of these top tourist attractions in Vancouver:
- Stanley Park: Even if you’ve only got one day in Vancouver, don’t miss visiting this spectacular urban park. Sitting on over 1,000 acres of parkland on the western edge of Vancouver Harbour, Stanley Park is loaded with walking trails including the Vancouver Seawall, a 28-kilometre-long waterfront path.
- Granville Island: Located on a peninsula southwest of downtown, Granville Island is one of the coolest areas to check out in Vancouver. The “island” is packed with restaurants, craft beer bars & shops, and is home to the Granville Island Public Market, one of the largest of its kind in the city.
- Gastown: If you’re looking to step back into Vancouver’s past, there’s no better place to do it than Gastown. This downtown neighbourhood is the city’s oldest commercial area. It features a wealth of well-preserved Victorian architecture hiding boutiques, bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge: Need some fresh air? Head just 15 minutes north of downtown into the primordial coastal forest to experience the legendary Capilano Suspension Bridge. Spanning the Capilano Canyon, the 137-metre-long bridge is one of the city’s most popular things to check out. Besides walking across the bridge, check out the Treetops Adventure for a 30-metre-high walk through the canopy or the gravity-devying Cliffwalk along the edge of the canyon.
Where to stay in Vancouver
For most travellers on a time-crunch, the best areas to stay in Vancouver are those in & around the downtown including historic Gastown and Yaletown.
- Blue Horizon Hotel: Located in the heart of downtown on Robson Street, this excellent hotel is perfectly positions to take on the best of Vancouver. Splurge on a corner room for great views over the city.
- Hotel BLU: If you’re looking to stay in hip Yaletown, this 4-star hotel is a superb choice. There’s a great lineup of amenities here including an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness centre.
- L’Hermitage Hotel: On the doorstep of BC Place and the Vancouver Art Gallery, this chic hotel offers plenty for culture-lovers. The relaxing outdoor patio and pool area is perfect for a chillin’ after a day of checking out all Vancouver has to offer.
No visit to British Columbia is complete without visiting Whistler. Located 121 kilometres from Downtown Vancouver, Whistler is a Canadian road trip destination par excellence.
To get to Whistler from Vancouver, you’ll travel along the picturesque Sea to Sky Highway, one of the most scenic drives and short road trips in Canada.
On this time-crunched Western Canada swing, we’re banking on just one day in Whistler. If you’re visiting Canada in winter, however, you might want to stay in Whistler and spend a few more days. Whistler is one of the top skiing destinations in Canada and worthy of a longer visit to carve out its legendary pistes.
What to do in Whistler
No matter which time of year you travel to Whistler, there’s plenty to enjoy. In winter, Whistler’s a popular skiing destination that’s among the best in Canada; in summer, it turns its attention to other adventure sports like mountain biking & hiking.
To get the most out of your road trip, get started with these top tourist attractions in Whistler:
- Whistler Blackcomb: Whether you’re in Whistler in summer or winter, you’ll find something to please your tastes at this popular mountain resort whether its skiing down one of its 200 runs or powering through the rainforest on its extensive biking trail network.
- Peak 2 Peak Gondola: Connecting the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, this over-3-kilometre ropeway is one of the world’s longest with epic views to match all year round.
- Garibaldi Provincial Park: For those who’d rather spend the day hiking, there’s hardly a better spot in the Whistler area than Garibaldi Provincial Park. The park’s namesake, Garibaldi Lake, is among the area’s finest, shimmering with otherworldly aquamarine colours when the light reflects just right. While you’ll find some of the best hiking trails in Whistler here, most are fairly challenging and require a decent level of fitness and stamina.
More places to visit for your Western Canada itinerary
Got a little more time for your Western Canada road trip? Here are a few more ideas to tweak your itinerary…
The capital of British Columbia and one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, Victoria is a fantastic addition to any trip to Western Canada. It’s located on beautiful and rugged Vancouver Island, a 1h45m ferry ride from the mainland.
Victoria often considered the most British city in North America, and as you begin to discover it’s charms, it’s obvious why. Among the top tourist attractions in Victoria, you’ll discover beautiful English gardens, old Victorian buildings, and even a handful of baronial castles.
If you’ve got more than one day in Victoria, be sure to road trip over to Juan De Fuca Provincial Park. The coastal rainforest park is one of the best day trips from Victoria and home to some of the best hiking on Vancouver Island including the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.
While it’s hardly as well-known as other destinations in Western Canada, Tofino is one of the coolest places to go on Vancouver Island and Canada’s uncontested top surfing destination.
Outside of its swells, there are plenty of things to do in Tofino including kayaking, fishing, hiking, and even whale-watching. Along the waterfront, you’ll also find a ton of hip places to eat and a slew of great craft beer breweries & bar.